Updated 1 September 2014.
With enthusiasm building for the 2014 Farah Khan film Happy New Year - starring Abhishek Bachchan, Sonu Sood, Deepika Padukone, Shah Rukh Khan, Boman Irani, Vivaan Shah and Jackie Shroff - we look back at some of our favorites films featuring a heist as the central plot point.
Heist films generally feature an intricate story woven around a group of people trying to steal something of value. These films feature a variety of plot twists that reflect the challenges of the task as the characters formulate a plan, carry it out, and (hopefully) escape with the goods. There is generally a nemesis they have to deal with - the person being stolen from, someone who is trying to prevent the heist, or one of the heist partners who turns on the others.
Because Bollywood films are generally over 2 hours long, you are offered a significant storyline to help you understand the characters and their motives, see the evolution of the plan, witness the intricacies of the heist, and experience the results of the heist attempt.
While there have been many heist films produced by India over the years, here are five favorite heist films to watch if you are new to Bollywood.
Description: Thriller drama. After losing his job, bank manager Vijay Singh Rajput (Amitabh Bachchan) recruits three blind men - Iliyas (Paresh Rawal), Arjun Verma (Arjun Rampal), and Vishwas Prajapati (Akshay Kumar) - to help him rob his bank. He also coerces Neha (Sushmita Sen), a teacher at a local blind school, to train the men on the steps needed to perform the robbery. But when scheduled date for the robbery arrives, the well-rehearsed plan begins to slowly unravel ...
Why I Love This Film: The idea of three blind men robbing a bank in broad daylight is unique. These three strangers don't get along at first, so what makes this film enjoyable is watching the camaraderie develop between them even during the occasional mishaps that occur. Each character brings a unique talent, perspective, or personality flaw which ultimately leads to their undoing or salvation. While some of the songs are mildly entertaining, it is the storyline that keeps your attention through to the end. The film was based on a play by Vipul Shah.
Trivia: To prepare for her role, Sushmita Sen visited schools for the blind to interact with the students.
Description: Comedy. Rakesh Trivedi (Abhishek Bachchan) and Vimmi Saluja (Rani Mukherjee) leave their villages and set off into the greater world to pursue their dreams of riches and fame. When unforeseen obstacles block their success, they are brought together and their mutual desire for success causes them to reinvent themselves as grifters "Bunty" and "Babli" - con artists whose shameless robberies via fraud both astonish and entertain. ACP Dashrath Singh (Amitabh Bachchan) is hot on their trail, and curtailing their criminal career is only the beginning of his plans for this flamboyant duo.
Why I Love This Film: As you witness the initial plight of Rakesh and Vimmi, you empathize with their frustrations as their hopes and dreams are quickly dashed to the ground. In response to their misfortunes, they trick an unscrupulous government employee out of some funds he obtained dishonestly. Once they taste success, Bunty and Babli realize they have a talent for the hustle - and their small cons grow into larger and more impressive scams with a bit of a Robin Hood largesse for the poor on the side. While this is a Bonnie and Clyde-style adventure, the emphasis is on comedy rather than violence.
Trivia: This was the first film to co-star Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek.
3. Dhoom 2
Description: Action. ACP Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) learns that an international thief plans to steal a priceless artifact in Mumbai. Despite their attempts to prevent the crime, "Mr. A" succeeds and eludes the police. At his next heist, Sunehri (Aishwarya Rai) appears and tries to steal the jewel Mr. A is after. Being intrigued by her fearlessness, he agrees to make her a partner. After some training, they travel to Rio de Janeiro with Jai and Ali Akbar Fateh Khan (Uday Chopra) in pursuit. But Mr. A soon uncovers a secret about Sunehri which threatens their plans ... and their lives.
Why I Love This Film: This is a delightful cat-and-mouse game where Jai and Mr. A meet face-to-face several times in an attempt to get to know the others weaknesses. In addition, each heist is unique and cleverly choreographed with intriguing use of high-tech gadgetry and physical prowess. Finally, several key item numbers performed by two of Bollywood's best dancers add to the entertainment value of this high-energy film.
Trivia: The second film in the Dhoom series, this was the first Bollywood film shot in Brazil.
4. Don 2
Description: Action thriller. Having conquered the Asian underworld, Don (Shah Rukh Khan) now wants to control the European market. However, law enforcement agencies in several countries want him captured and the bosses of the existing European underworld wants him dead. Despite these obstacles, Don manages to pull together a team of criminal frenemies (Boman Irani, Nawab Shah, Kunal Kapoor) to undertake a heist that is beyond anyone's imagination.
Why I Love This Film: The second in the series of SRK Don films, this story has an Ocean's Eleven feel to it, though these characters can't be trusted and don't trust each other. The storyline takes you on a high-class rollercoaster ride of plot twists that keeps you engaged through to the end. Filmed in India, Thailand, Germany, Malaysia and Switzerland, the film takes advantage of each country's sights, sounds, and structures to present an entertaining tale.
Trivia: Several scenes were shot in Malaysia's Malacca Prison with prisoners as extras. A section of the prison block was made available for filming, with special T-shirts distinguishing crew members from prisoners in the high-security zone.
5. Special 26
Description: Thriller. Based on true incidents during 1980s, a group of four men - pretend to be Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials and carry out income tax raids in different locations of India. They decide to do one last raid - the biggest ever - but the real CBI has become aware of their game, investigates and follows them.
Why I Love This Film: This is the ultimate heist film because it is based on real events which lend credibility to the on-screen sequences. As the real CBI gets closer the fake CBI, you can almost feel the noose tightening around the necks of the imposters. The opponents are equally savvy, which makes this cat-and-mouse game even more fascinating.
Trivia: The film is inspired by a real-life heist on 19 March 1987 where a group of 26 people posing as CBI officers executed an income tax raid on the Opera House branch of Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri in Mumbai.
Description: Action drama. In Los Angeles, six Indian men - Yashvardhan "Major" Rampal (Amitabh Bachchan), Jay "Ajju" Rehan (Sanjay Dutt), Marc Issak (Suniel Shetty), Raj "Baali" Yadav (Mahesh Manjrekar), Maqbool "Mac" Haider (Lucky Ali), and Anand "Andy" Mathur (Kumar Gaurav) - are rounded up by the police and questioned about a missing truck. While being held, they discuss a plan to commit the perfect crime - and resolve each of their financial and personal problems once and for all. When their simple robbery explodes into a bloody ambush, the ruthless killers learn that one of them is a cop. But which one?
Why I Love This Film: What happens when the heist goes terribly wrong. The film lifts the central storyline directly from Reservoir Dogs - but because of the style and character development, Quentin Tarantino says this is his favorite remake. The film is dark, violent and bloody but, given the source material, the film does a great job of bringing a Bollywood sensibility to the story. As the characters try to resolve what went wrong and why, trust unravels and their true natures are exposed. Note: Several of the item numbers performed by women seem to be set in strip clubs, so they are fairly provocative.
Trivia: Completed in 31 days, this was the first Indian film to be entirely shot on location in Los Angeles.
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features video trailers for each of these five heist films.
If you liked this, please check out some of our other Friday Five posts.